News Roundup: A Texas Senate Bill Could Increase Penalties For Election-Related Crimes

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMay 15, 2019 2:21 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

A Texas House panel took up a controversial omnibus bill Wednesday morning that would increase criminal penalties for election-related crimes. The wide-ranging legislation has already passed the Texas Senate.

State Representative Stephanie Klick, a Republican from Fort Worth, chairs the House Elections Committee. She outlined the House version of Senate Bill 9 before a packed room.

“The intent of this committee substitute is neither voter suppression nor to enable voter fraud. Ultimately the intent of SB 9 is to strengthen election integrity,” Klick said.

Despite the stated intent of the bill, once public testimony began, people repeatedly told members of the House committee that SB 9 would have a chilling effect on voters and even poll workers.

Chris Davis is with the Texas Association of Election Administrators. Davis testified against SB 9. He ran through a litany of reasons why it was bad policy, such as how it could the criminalize what he described as innocent mistakes made by poll workers.

“As the very people that will be tasked to carry out this bill’s measures, and quite frankly administer your next elections, these are our problems with it; we hope you’re still listening,” Davis said.

Voting rights organizations also held a press conference Wednesday morning to highlight their opposition to SB 9. Voting groups have previously told KUT News they worry the bill could criminalize people for honest mistakes.

A police officer shot and killed a woman in Baytown near Houston Monday night. Cellphone video of the shooting was widely shared on social media and has sparked outrage.

Florian Martin with Houston Public Media has more.

The video, recorded by a bystander, shows a black woman – whom police identified as 44-year-old Pamela Turner – struggling with and breaking away from a Baytown officer.

As she walks away, the officer deploys his Taser, which stops Turner in her tracks but doesn’t seem to incapacitate her for long. The officer pushes her to the ground but she continues to struggle. Police say that’s when she took the Taser away from the officer and used it on him. The officer can be seen jumping back and firing five rounds from his gun at Turner, killing her.

The officer is on administrative leave. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an independent investigation into the shooting.

The Texas House has given preliminary approval to Senate Bill 21, which would raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21, except for military personnel.


The measure already passed the State Senate. Republican State Rep. John Zerwas of Richmond, who is a physician, introduced the bill in the House Tuesday.

“It’s quite well known that this particular time of life where people are exposed to this in the 14 to 17-year-old range they are highly susceptible to addictive behaviors and the idea behind this bill is to move that risk away from those people who are most susceptible to it.” Zerwas  said.

There are differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill that will need to be worked out before it can be sent to the Governor. The Texas Tribune reports if SB 21 is signed into, Texas will become the 14th state to raise the legal tobacco purchasing age to 21.